Ramsey Adoption Story in Local Paper
Post written by Jenni Ramsey, Outreach Director for All Blessings Intl.
In June of 2007 we felt God leading our family towards international adoption. We had no idea where the journey would take us or how our lives would be impacted. We searched for Hailey for six years in three different countries (El Salvador, Taiwan and S. Korea), and her adoption was recently finalized on June 26, 2013. We believe the Lord led us to El Salvador so that our eyes would be opened to the desperate needs of His children. Although we experienced a failed adoption in El Salvador, we will continue to lead teams to this beautiful country as long as the Lord leads us. We are honored to work alongside amazing partners in both El Salvador and Guatemala and love leading orphan outreach trips.
We're grateful to The OC Register for sharing our adoption story. Here is the link for the article:
Johnson: Adoption journey brings couple a world of love
By BILL JOHNSON / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Life rarely is what you expect it to be. There simply are too many disappointments, unexpected hiccups, zigs when you are set on a zag.
For Jenni and Mike Ramsey of Santa Ana, wanting to adopt a little girl was a rather personal, borderline-selfish desire. After all, they had two young boys already. A girl, well, just would be nice, they admit now.
It goes back to 2007. Mike's sister had just adopted an orphan in China and it was such a nice thing. Why shouldn't they, the Ramseys asked themselves, do the same? They are, it should be noted here, a deeply religious couple. Mike in those days had worked with orphans in both Bosnia and El Salvador, even helping a family from their Irvine church turn property they own in El Salvador into a functioning orphanage. Yes, they would adopt.
"We thought, we have the room to expand our family, so why not?" Jenni recalled. They picked an agency in El Salvador. They raised the $15,000 they figured it would take to make the adoption a reality. They would need every penny of it.
There was a vast amount of paperwork to wade through - including an IQ test that would run them $2,000, simply to get qualified by El Salvadoran and U.S. authorities and to be matched with a suitable child.
For one year they waited. About 11/2years later, the adoption agency arranged a trip for waiting parents to come to El Salvador. Jenni Ramsey was made a leader of four other people.
"It was a life-changing event," she said. "It was heartbreaking to see the conditions at the different orphanages. It was awful. And I realized there that adoption is not culturally accepted there. We got there, and people thought we were crazy for wanting to do it. That's when I figured out our adoption wasn't going to happen."
Indeed, the couple soon learned their papers had been shoved to the side in deep limbo, from which they would never emerge. The agency and its adoption program would soon follow, forever shut down.
"The most significant thing that happened was we met a woman from a different agency, and she wanted to help us," Jenni Ramsey remembered. "She had a small adoption program, but knew the issues and the country. More importantly, she understood the desperate need to take care of orphans there."
The Ramseys went home, but something inside them had been altered. "I'd left part of my heart in El Salvador," Jenni Ramsey said.
Three years passed. It finally dawned on the couple that an adoption there would never happen. In 2010, the woman with the small adoption agency helped them to try again, this time in Korea.
Yet what they had seen those years ago was too much to ignore, too desperate not to do something. Mike became missions pastor at the Village Church of Irvine where they attend. Jenni became missions director. They would focus on orphans who, according to UNICEF's latest figures, now total 143 million worldwide.
In that time they have led teams of volunteers to El Salvador and to Guatemala, delivering basic necessities and medical care to orphanages in both countries. Next month, Jenni will make, with 20 volunteers from Orange County, her seventh trip to El Salvador. In November, she will make her third trip to Guatemala.
Three years ago, they started the SoCal Orphan Care Network, an orphan crisis organization of more than 100 adoptive and foster families, attorneys and adoption professionals with a passion for caring for orphans.
"That," Mike Ramsey said, "is really the heart of our story. It's about helping the least among us." They, at the same time, did their homework on Korea. It was, they soon learned, everything that El Salvador wasn't. Children actually were being adopted there. They would try again.
The process, though, would cost about $35,000. They sent out letters to hundreds of friends. They started a blog, ran raffles for items over the Internet. People responded. Two families who had gone through the same El Salvador nightmare donated half of what they needed. They applied for 15 grants. They received four. Donations poured in.
They qualified almost immediately to adopt in Korea. There was a barrage of visits from social workers and others, plus home inspections. The process started two years ago when Mike, a television commercial producer, was 43. Once he turned 45, he would be deemed too old to adopt.
"At one point we gave up," Jenni said. "Korea slowed down. I think they wanted to do all adoptions internally."
On June 12, 2012, Mike's 44th birthday, the couple received a call. There was a little girl for them. Yet the Koreans wanted the process expedited. "It was music to our ears," Jenni said. Three months later, they traveled to Seoul to pick up their daughter.
Haesook Hwang was 15 months old. They would name her Hailey, a name they said sounded similar, and to honor her birth mother. Hailey Jane, who is 2 now, came to me with her arms raised when I walked in the door. I picked her up, she tugged at my face and smiled sweetly.
Come Monday, a judge will officially change her name, and the young girl will become an American. Mike and Jenni will dress her in her traditional Korean dress for the occasion. When it is official, they will remove it to reveal a red, white and blue dress. The couple and their family and friends will then return home and celebrate.